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15 March 2024 - Daily Current Affairs


1. Proposal for Simultaneous Elections in India

Recommended Approach: Phased Implementation

  • Phase 1: Lok Sabha and State Assembly Elections Together

  • Hold Lok Sabha and state assembly elections simultaneously.

  • Phase 2: Integrating Local Body Polls

  • Conduct municipal and panchayat elections within 100 days of the general elections.

Achieving Synchronization: Constitutional Amendments

  • Setting a Common Election Cycle:

  • Amend Articles 83 (Lok Sabha) and 172 (State Assemblies) to establish a unified electoral cycle.

  • Streamlining Local Body Elections:

  • Amend Articles 324A and 325 to enable the Election Commission to conduct simultaneous panchayat and municipality elections.

Implementation Details

  • Constitutional Ratification Required: Changes to Articles 324A and 325 require state approval.

  • Number of Amendments: The proposal suggests 18 amendments to the constitution and other statutes.

  • Implementation Oversight: An implementation group is recommended to oversee the execution of the plan.

Handling Early Dissolutions:

  • The report addresses situations where a state assembly dissolves before the end of the Lok Sabha term. In such cases, the newly formed assembly would have a shortened term, ending alongside the next general election.

  • Fresh Lok Sabha elections due to a hung Parliament, no-confidence motion, or other reasons would only fill the remaining term of the previous house.

  • Similarly, for state assemblies with early dissolutions, the newly elected assembly's term would extend until the next synchronized Lok Sabha election, unless dissolved sooner.


Impact and Timeline

  • Limited Effect on Upcoming Elections: This report likely won't affect the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

  • Roadmap for Future: The proposal establishes a framework for synchronized elections in the future.


2. Kerala Tackles Human-Wildlife Conflict

The Kerala government is ramping up efforts to address the growing problem of human-wildlife conflict. Here's a summary of their initiatives:

  • Multi-pronged approach: The government is implementing a variety of measures, including habitat improvement and deterrents.

  • Control room: A central point of coordination has been established at the Forest Department headquarters.

  • Rapid response teams: Around 900 temporary watchers will be deployed to assist these teams in conflict zones.

  • Water management: Efforts are underway to ensure sufficient water availability in forests by maintaining existing ponds and building new ones with the help of corporate social responsibility funds.

  • Beehive fences: As a pilot, beehive fences will be installed in specific forest areas to deter elephants (but not implemented in areas with bears).


3. A Delightful Season at Andhra Pradesh's Bird Sanctuaries

Bird lovers are flocking to Andhra Pradesh's sanctuaries and wetlands to witness thousands of migratory birds. This year, around 1.5 lakh birds arrived, with Kolleru Lake boasting nearly 50,000 visitors.

  • High Numbers: Over 1.5 lakh migratory birds visited sanctuaries, wetlands, and water bodies across Andhra Pradesh.

  • Popular Spots: Kolleru Lake (50,000 birds), Coringa Sanctuary (43,130 birds), Pulicat Lake (37,150 birds), Nelapattu (16,000 birds), and Uppalapadu (8,000 birds).

  • Species Spotted: Indian skimmers, great knots, greater flamingos, pelicans, painted storks, little egrets, northern pintails, Indian pond herons, Eurasian coots, glossy ibis, lesser whistling ducks, black-tailed godwits, grey pelicans, Asian openbill storks, and purple swamphens.

  • Appreciation for Locals: Forest officials credited villagers for protecting the birds, allowing them to return to these wintering grounds for decades.

  • Breeding and Return: Migratory birds use these sanctuaries for breeding before returning north the following winter.


4. TRAFFIC

  • Full Name: TRAFFIC: The wildlife trade monitoring network

  • Joint Programme: TRAFFIC is a joint programme of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

  • Mission:  Their primary focus is to ensure that trade in wild animals and plants is sustainable and doesn't threaten the survival of these species.

  • Activities: TRAFFIC tackles illegal wildlife trade along the entire supply chain, from the places where animals are poached or captured to the final destination where they are sold. They work with:

  • Enforcement agencies to help them detect, identify, and prevent illegal wildlife trade.

  • Governments to develop and implement policies to regulate the legal wildlife trade.

  • Consumers to raise awareness about the dangers of illegal wildlife trade.

  • Focus:  They target some of the most threatened wildlife species impacted by illegal trade, including:

  • Elephant ivory

  • Rhino horn

  • Pangolin scales

  • Tiger bone

  • Bear bile

  • Website: You can learn more about TRAFFIC and their work on their website https://www.traffic.org/.


5. India Considering Free Trade Pact with EAEU


Belarus' Foreign Minister Sergei Aleinik announced that India is seriously considering starting free trade talks with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). This is significant because Belarus is a close ally of Russia, currently under sanctions for its war in Ukraine.

The news suggests India might be exploring trade partnerships beyond traditional allies, potentially due to the ongoing geopolitical situation.


Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) Details:

The EAEU is an economic union of five post-Soviet states: Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Belarus. It functions much like a free trade zone, aiming for:

  • Free movement of goods, services, capital, and labor among member countries.

  • Coordinated economic policies in various sectors like macroeconomics, transport, industry, agriculture, and foreign trade.

By entering a free trade agreement with the EAEU, India could potentially benefit from:

  • Increased trade with all five EAEU member countries, not just Belarus.

  • Reduced tariffs and trade barriers for Indian goods entering the EAEU market.

  • Access to a larger consumer base of over 180 million people.

However, the decision to pursue these talks likely considers the complex geopolitical situation, including the ongoing war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia.


6. Mixed Progress on Forest Rights Act Implementation in India

A fact-finding committee by Call for Justice assessed the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 in five states: Assam, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Karnataka. Here's a summary of their findings:

  • Overall: Implementation was "mixed" across the states.

  • Challenges in Assam:

  • FRA doesn't address the unique situation of "shifting cultivation" (jhum) practiced by communities in the Northeast.

  • The committee recommends recognizing jhum cultivation as a sustainable practice for these communities.

  • Chhattisgarh: Delays in decision-making were observed in Kanker and Korba districts.

  • Maharashtra:

  • Satisfactory implementation in Gadchiroli district.

  • Process not completed in Nashik district.

  • Odisha:

  • "Substantial advancement" in Kandhamal and Sundargarh districts.

  • Significant gap exists in distributing land titles to eligible communities.

The report highlights the need for better implementation and adaptation of the FRA to address regional variations and specific practices of forest-dwelling communities.


7. Health Risks Prompt Crackdown on Harmful Dyes in Food

Several Indian states are taking action against the use of harmful dyes in street food following the discovery of Rhodamine-B in cotton candy samples.

The Problem:

  • Cotton candy and other colorful street foods (like Gobi Manchurian) are sometimes tainted with Rhodamine-B, an industrial dye used in textiles.

  • “Rhodamine-B is a fluorescent dye used in cosmetics, textile and leather industries. It gives you brilliant pinks, greens and blues.

  • Unfortunately, it is used as a food colouring agent not only in cotton candy but also in the preparation of sweets, various manchurian items and pakodas and in the preparation of sauces for Chinese food.”

  • This dye is illegal for use in food because it can cause health problems, including:

  • Allergies

  • Cell damage

  • Increased risk of cancer (stomach, liver, kidney)

The Response:

  • Tamil Nadu banned the sale of cotton candy after finding Rhodamine-B.

  • Karnataka banned harmful coloring agents in cotton candy and Gobi Manchurian.

  • Andhra Pradesh is testing samples for the presence of illegal dyes.

Safe Alternatives:

India's food safety agency (FSSAI) has approved a list of safe food colors. These include natural colors derived from plants and some synthetic colors.

Experts' Opinion:

  • Doctors recommend avoiding brightly colored street foods as they may contain harmful dyes.

  • Long-term consumption of Rhodamine-B can lead to serious health issues.


EDITORIAL ANALYSIS FROM THE HINDU


1. In issuing AI advisory, MEITY becomes a deity

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has come under fire for its recent advisory on regulating generative Artificial Intelligence (AI). Here's a breakdown of the key issues:

  • MEITY's Dubious Authority:

  • The ministry's name change from DEITY to MEITY is seen as ironic given its clumsy attempts to control the internet.

  • MEITY's "advisories" lack legal backing under the Information Technology Act (IT Act).

  • These vague advisories pressure compliance without clear penalties, creating confusion.

  • Frenzied Policymaking:

  • MEITY issues advisories reactively, often based on media trends rather than careful analysis.

  • Recent advisories on AI seem triggered by a viral deepfake video and a social media post.

  • Opaque Communication:

  • MEITY withholds full details of advisories, relying on press releases and social media pronouncements by the minister.

  • Selective distribution of information to media and private firms raises concerns about transparency.

  • Unclear & Unenforceable Regulations:

  • The March 2024 advisory introduces undefined terms like "bias prevention" and "unreliable AI."

  • The proposed licensing regime for AI models lacks legal basis and clarity.

  • Minister's Social Media "Clarifications" Further Muddle the Waters:

  • The minister's tweets attempt to clarify the advisory but introduce new contradictions and exemptions.

  • His dismissive attitude towards criticism and lack of official documentation worsen the situation.

  • Shifting Policy Landscape:

  • This is not the first instance of questionable legality in tech regulation by MEITY.

  • The IT Rules, 2021 have been criticized for overreach and lack of transparency.

  • Issuing advisories instead of amending IT rules reflects a decline in administrative standards.

  • Chilling Effect on Public Discourse:

  • Fear of consequences discourages public debate and criticism of government policies.

  • This shift towards "digital authoritarianism" stifles healthy discussion on technology policy.

The Way Forward:

The author argues for a return to well-defined regulations, proper stakeholder consultations, and a more open and accountable policymaking process.



2.Bhutan's Bold Plan: A New Economic Hub at Gelephu

Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is pushing an ambitious plan to build a new economic hub called "Gelephu Mindfulness City" (GMC) on the border with India. Here's a breakdown of the project and the challenges it faces:

Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC):

  • A special economic zone with unique Bhutanese architecture spread across 1,000 square kilometers.

  • Focus on carbon neutrality with non-polluting industries (IT, education, healthcare).

  • Aims to be a wellness and investment destination strategically located for regional connectivity.

Challenges for Gelephu:

  • Geography: Prone to flooding during the monsoon season due to heavy rainfall.

  • Wildlife: Located in the middle of elephant corridors, requiring careful planning.

  • Security: History of insurgencies in the region necessitates security measures.

  • Infrastructure: Landlocked Bhutan depends on India for trade routes and transport.

Why Bhutan Needs Gelephu:

  • Diversify the economy beyond hydropower and sustainable tourism.

  • Create jobs and curb youth outmigration.

  • Counter pressure from China by expanding ties with India and other neighbors.

Why India Should Consider Gelephu:

  • Maintain strong relations with Bhutan, a key strategic ally.

  • Avoid losing influence to China in the region (similar to Sri Lanka's Hambantota project).

  • Aligns with India's own plans for regional connectivity (railways, roads, power grid).

Overall Significance:

  • The Gelephu project is a gamble for Bhutan, but it has the potential to be a game-changer for the region.

  • Success hinges on overcoming geographical and security challenges, as well as attracting investment.

  • Gelephu's development could be a model for regional cooperation in South Asia.

The Broader Context:

  • The project fits into a larger trend of countries seeking closer ties with traditional allies.

  • India has an opportunity to strengthen its position in South Asia by supporting similar initiatives.

The Takeaway:

The Gelephu project is a bold vision for Bhutan's future. While challenges exist, it offers a chance for regional collaboration and economic growth.


The article you summarized mentions Operation All Clear as part of Bhutan's security concerns surrounding the Gelephu project. Here's a quick recap of Operation All Clear:

  • Year: 2003 (mentioned in the article)

  • Purpose: Bhutan's Royal Army conducted Operation All Clear to flush out militant groups from Assam, India, who had established camps in southern Bhutan.

  • Reason for Relevance: The presence of past insurgencies in the region highlights a potential security challenge for the Gelephu project, located near the border with India.


8. What is the CAA?

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed in 2019, creates a faster path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants from specific religious minorities (Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Christian and Jain) who entered India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before December 2014.

Exemptions

It is important to note that certain tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura were exempted from the CAA's ambit. To access these protected areas, an Inner Line Permit (ILP) is needed from the concerned State governments.

Why is it Controversial?

The CAA is challenged in the Supreme Court for violating the principle of equality in the Constitution. Critics argue it discriminates against Muslims by excluding them from the benefits. Additionally, the CAA might disproportionately affect Muslims if combined with a planned national citizenship register.

Arguments For and Against

  • Government's Argument: The CAA is meant to help those facing religious persecution in neighboring countries.

  • Critics' Argument: The CAA violates the Assam Accord, a peace agreement with a different citizenship cut-off date.

Current Status

The Supreme Court hasn't issued a final decision on the CAA's legality. Petitioners are asking for a stay on the recently implemented rules, arguing they should wait for the court's decision.


Challenge to Section 6A and its Impact on CAA

The outcome of the challenge to Section 6A of the Citizenship Act is important for the CAA.

  • Section 6A: This section sets March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date to determine who is a foreigner in Assam. Immigrants arriving between 1966 and 1971 are considered "foreigners" with limited rights.

  • Assam Accord: This peace agreement has a different citizenship cut-off date.

Why it matters:

  • If the court upholds March 24, 1971, as the valid cut-off date, the CAA could be seen as violating the Assam Accord because the CAA uses a different timeline.

  • The CAA case hinges on the outcome of the Section 6A challenge.


9. Decades-Long Conflict in Eastern DRC Flares Up Again

  • Renewed fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 rebel group has caused deaths, displacement, and worsened food insecurity.

  • The US, UN, and Western countries have condemned the violence and urged for peace.

Roots of the Conflict:

  • The violence stems from the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the influx of refugees into eastern Congo.

  • Ethnic tensions between Congolese and Rwandan emigrants fueled the First Congo War (1996-1997) and the Second Congo War (1998-2003).

  • Despite peace agreements, fighting has continued for decades.

M23 Rebels:

  • Formed in 2012, the M23 claims to protect Tutsis and accuses the government of failing to integrate them.

  • Their recent attacks have escalated the humanitarian crisis and regional tensions.

International Concerns:

  • The international community fears the conflict could involve more countries and go unnoticed due to other global crises.


15 March 2024 - Daily Current Affairs


15 March 2024 - Daily Current Affairs


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